Identity theft is when someone uses your personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, social security number, financial institution account number, username or password) to commit fraud. Some law enforcement officials consider it the fastest-growing crime in America: it victimizes 10 million Americans and steals $50 billion from businesses and consumers annually.
Protect your personal information: Protect your Social Security number (SSN), credit card and debit card numbers, PINs (personal identification numbers), passwords, and other personal information. Never provide this information in response to unsolicited requests by phone, fax, letter, or email.
Check your bank and credit card statements for purchases that you did not make: Regularly check your bank, credit and debit card statements to make sure that all transactions are legitimate. It is important to know what you did and did not buy so that you are better prepared to answer questions if somebody steals and uses your financial information.
Periodically review your credit record and report fraudulent activity: Check your credit report for signs of potential ID theft, including credit cards, loans, or leases you never signed up for and credit record requests from people unknown to you. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) of 2003 allows you one free credit report each year from each of the three major nationwide credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). See the FTC Web site for more details.